The Scoville Heat Scale

The Scoville scale is a measure of the 'hotness' of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers, i.e. hot sauce. The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which is the active component that produces the heat sensation for humans. The name capsaicin comes from the scientific classification of the pepper plant, a type of fruit, that belongs to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin (8-methyl N-vanillyl 6-nonenamide) occurs naturally in chilli peppers together with a number of very similar compounds referred to generically as capsaicinoids, it is the precise ration of these capsaicinoids which causes the differences in taste reaction to different pepper species, for example the typical delayed reaction to the habanero pepper (C. chinense) as compared to other species.

The scale or test is named after Wilbur L. Scoville (1865-1942), who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 while working at the Parke Davis pharmaceutical company. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the 'heat' is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. A sweet pepper, that contains no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero (no heat detectable even undiluted); whereas the hottest chillies, such as habaneros have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable. The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.

Nowadays, capsaicin concentrations are determined using more scientific methods, typically High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The direct measurement of capsaicin gives much more accurate results than sensory methods.

The Scoville rating or 'hotness' of fresh chillies is obviously dependent upon the variety of pepper but even within one particular variety the hotness can vary greatly, this is particularly so of the habaneros where a 10 fold variation is not uncommon. Factors influencing the heat of a fresh pepper include growing temperature, hours of sunlight, moisture, soil chemistry, and the type and amount of fertilizer used. The heat of dried peppers is equally dependent upon all of these factors as it was growing plus the conditions under which it was dried.

Until recently the Guinness World Records had the world’s hottest chilli pepper as the Red Savina Habanero. Generally these peppers range from 350,000–570,000 Scoville Units as compared with a score of 2,500–5,000 for the jalapeno pepper. The record breaking pepper was produced by GNS Spices Inc in 1994 in Walnut, US and measured at 577,000 Scoville units. Recently however several super-hot peppers have challenged for the record. Experts at the Defence Research Laboratory in the army garrison town of Tezpur in the North-Eastern state of Assam, claimed a locally grown Naga Jolokia in testing was nearly 50 per cent more pungent than the red savina habanero at a blistering 855,000 Scoville units. However, this remained unsubstantiated. Seeds of the same Naga-Bih Jolokia pepper (sometimes also called the Bhut Jolokia) cultivated at New Mexico State University have stood-up to testing and in Fenruary 2007 a specimen registering a staggering 1,001,304 Scoville heat units was officially acclaimed by the Guinness World Record as the new worlds hottest pepper. Naga Jolokia is nearly twice as hot as the previous holder, the Red Savina.

The current hottest pepper reported and No. 1 in the record books is the Dragon's Breath chilli pepper developed in St Asaph, Wales, in association with Nottingham Trent University. It has been tested at 2.48 million scoville units. Rest assured someone is already working on something hotter!

As an aside, the Guinness World Records site is altogether fascinating, it's all to easy to spend an hour exploring extraordinary facts that you wouldn't even imagine people would even report, e.g. Tallest Celery Plant - Joan Priednieks of Weston Zoyland, Somerset, UK, grew a celery plant that measured 2.74-m (9-ft) tall in 1998. She bought the plant at a school fete in 1997. Joan says the celery is too tough to eat...

Scoville Heat Units Hot Sauce
16,000,000 Blair's 16 Million Reserve
16,000,000 Blair's 6 A.M with 24 karat gold plated skull (out of stock)
13,500,000 Blair's 2005 Halloween Reserve (out of stock)
7,100,000 The Source (out of stock)
5,000,000 Mad Dog 357 Pepper Extract 5 Million SU
3,000,000 Mad Dog 38 Special 3 Million Scoville (out of stock)
1,500,000 - 2,000,000 Blair's 3 A.M. (out of stock)
1,500,000 Da' Bomb The Final Answer
1,300,000 Chilli Pepper Pete's Dragon's Blood XXX Ultra Hot Sauce
1,100,000 Blair's Ultra Death Sauce in a coffin
1,000,000 1 Million Scoville Pepper Extract
800,000 Satan's Blood
750,000 Mad Dog 357 Collector's 'Silver' Edition
500,000 - 750,000 Dave's Gourmet Insanity Private Reserve 2006
700,000 Hellfire Fear This Hot Sauce
600,000 Mad Dog 357 with Bullet Keychain
357,000 Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce (out of stock)
350,000 Bad Boy Chilli Shake
321,900 Da' Bomb Ground Zero
250,000 Dave's Gourmet Ultimate Insanity Sauce
180,000 Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce
175,000 Predator Great White Shark
135,600 Da' Bomb Beyond Insanity
100,000 The Hottest F**k*n' Sauce
90,000 Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce
49,250 Blair's After Death Sauce
35,000 Blair’s Original Death Sauce With Chipotle And Skull Key Chain
34,000 Blair's Golden Death Sauce
11,600 El Yucateco XXXtra Hot Habanero
8,910 El Yucateco Chile Habanero Green
8,910 High River Sauces Cheeba Gold
7,000 - 8,000 TABASCO Hot Habanero Sauce
5,790 El Yucateco Chile Habanero Red
3,600 Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce
3,400 El Yucateco Chipotle Hot Sauce
1,500 - 2,500 TABASCO Chipotle Pepper Sauce (out of stock)
1,200 - 2,400 Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce (out of stock)
Scoville Heat Units Chilli Pepper
2,480,000 Dragon's Breath (from St Asaph, Wales, in association with Nottingham Trent Univeristy)
1,569,300 - 2,200,000 Carolina Reaper Pepper (PuckerButt Pepper Company, Fort Mill, South Carolina).
1,463,700 Trinidad Scorpion Butch T (Hippyseeds Pepper, Australia)
1,382,118 Naga Viper pepper (Chilli Pepper Company, England)
1,041,427 Naga bhut jolokia pepper, Assam India (C. chinense / C. frutescens hybrid)
923,000 Dorset Naga
855,000 (reported) The Naga Jolokia pepper (Capsicum frutescens), not confirmed
350,000 - 577,000 Red Savina habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 - 350,000 Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 - 325,000 Scotch bonnet (Capsicum chinense)
100,000 - 225,000 Birds Eye pepper
100,000 - 200,000 Jamaican Hot pepper
100,000 - 125,000 Carolina Cayenne pepper
95,000 - 110,000 Bahamian pepper
85,000 - 115,000 Tabiche pepper
75,000 - 80,000 Red Amazon Pepper
50,000 - 100,000 Thai pepper (Capsicum annuum)
50,000 - 100,000 Chiltepin pepper
40,000 - 58,000 Piquin pepper
40,000 - 50,000 Super Chile pepper
40,000 - 50,000 Santaka pepper
30,000 - 50,000 Cayenne pepper (Capsicum baccatum and Capsicum frutescens )
30,000 - 50,000 Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)
15,000 - 30,000 de Arbol pepper
12,000 - 30,000 Manzano pepper
6,000 - 23,000 Serrano pepper
5,000 - 10,000 Hot Wax pepper
5,000 - 10,000 Chipotle, a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked.
2,500 - 8,000 Santaka pepper
2,500 - 5,000 Jalapeño (Capsicum annuum)
2,500 - 5,000 Guajilla pepper
1,500 - 2,500 Rocotilla pepper
1,000 - 2,000 pasilla pepper
1,000 - 2,000 Ancho pepper
1,000 - 2,000 Poblano pepper
700 - 1,000 Coronado pepper
500 - 2,500 Anaheim pepper
500 - 1,000 New Mexico pepper
400 - 700 Santa Fe Grande pepper
100 - 1000 Cubanelle Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
100 - 500 Pepperoncini, pepper (also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, and golden Greek peppers.
100 - 500 Pimento
0 Sweet Bell pepper
Scoville Heat Units Chemical
16,000,000,000 Resiniferatoxin - RTX (ultrapotent analog of capsaicin).
16,000,000 Pure capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin
9,100,000 Nordihydrocapsaicin
8,600,000 Homodihydrocapsaicin and Homocapsaicin
2,000,000 Common Pepper spray